by John Hemingway
July 25, 2021
Several years ago, we had a brief exchange on the subject of ayin which you had mentioned in your
article, "Anglo Equals Ephraim!!!
Aegel Meaning Bull Calf and the Equation of the Anglo-Saxons with Ephraim,"
dated 2 April, 2014, 2 Nisan, 5774.
You piqued my curiosity and I've spent some time looking into the origin of the name England. I would like to share a few insights with you and they are largely written with the context of your article in mind.
You stated that Angle and Aegel are the same. Might it be more accurate to consider these names a minimal word pair which share the same root? They indeed come from a common lexical source, but only one underwent an appreciable phonological change. The early form of Angle once contained a double g, as its initial vowel was short, and it contained another vowel immediately following the medial g. As a result, this name was subject to Semitic gemination. Later, it was degeminated when the first of the double consonants g became nasalized; hence gg > ng as in Angle. Conversely, the long vowel ae prevented Aegel from undergoing gemination thus preserving its original consonants
(though the initial ayin was dropped).
As you may be aware, gemination is an important clue in recognizing Semitic influence on Germanic vocabulary. Dr. Terry M. Blodgett demonstrates convincingly how Germanic words follow the ancient Hebrew rules of gemination, that is, the doubling of consonants when the preceding vowel is short and unstressed (Phonological Similarities in Germanic and Hebrew, diss.,1981, 41-57). For the benefit of English-speaking readers, a good example of gemination is apple, which is pronounced "ap-pel."
Degemination also leaves a Semitic footprint on many words of Germanic origin, a result of the Aramaic influence. In the Ancient Near East, Aramaic once reigned as the lingua franca for some centuries and closely followed the Hebrew tradition of geminating words. However, Aramaic speakers began to nasalize the first of the double consonants instead of geminating them. Linguists recognize the effects of this historical phonological change upon other Semitic languages. This often-cited example of degemination (also known as dissimilation) is Aramaic manda` 'knowledge' in place of Biblical Hebrew madda` (Dan 2:21).
There is reason to believe that this phonological phenomenon was not geographically isolated to the Ancient Near East: it was taking place in Germanic dialects at a relatively same time. The most compelling case for this historical linguistic link is probably Hebrew shaqa` and Aramic 'q? 'to sink, to set (of the sun).' Depending on how this word was pronounced, it could be geminated, that is, with a double q. It is suggested that this word is the etymon of Gothic sigqan or siggqan, which evinces the nasalization of the first of the double consonant (after recognizing that the consonant sh was not articulated in Germanic and was instead said as either s or sk). Typically, Gothic borrowed the Greek tactic of indicating a nasal consonant with the consonant g (Greek y) such as yy for ng and yk for nk. However, the presence of yq for nq in sigqan is surprising, for it indicates the nasalization of q. The Semitic qof (q) could not be pronounced by Indo-European language speakers: it was pronounced as c or k, the closest resembling sound. Wilhem Braune, the 19th-century Germanic linguist, regards Gothic q as a combination of w with k (A Gothic Grammar, with selections for reading and a glossary, translated by G.H. Balg, 1895, 19, 25). Apparently, the Gothic scribes wrote sigqan the way they heard it: the nasalized consonant sounded closer to q than qan was in transition: it retained traces of Semitic pronunciation which may have occurred as a result of the migration of people from a Semitic speaking area to Europe or that there had been major language contact with a Semitic-speaking group of people. Turning back to Angle and Aegel, these names may have been intentionally used as different' appellations, Angles as the ethnic group, and Aegel as its apparent 'founder.' Austin Simmons, who' researched the significance of Aegil on the Franks Casket, finds it baffling that there is not one instance of an actual person named 'Aegel' despite a number of topographical references in the OE' texts. He doubts that Aegel was ever a person (The Cipherment of the Franks Casket, 2010, 56). Nonetheless, Aegel functioned as a name element in many Anglo Saxon personal names such as Aegelric, Caegel, and Egelbert. Considering this, it was possibly a theophoric-like name, similar to Viking names such as Thorsteinn, Thorgeirr, and Thormothr, who were named after Thor, the god of' thunder. On the other hand, Aegel (alias Aegil) could have been a legendary Germanic hero. The' name obviously evoked a sufficient degree of reverence to be adopted as a name element.' The early 20th-century scholar, Dr. Thorvald Forssner, reports that the Aegel- and its variants Ailand Eil- 'appear abundantly in post-Conquest times' (Continental-Germanic Personal Names in England in Old and Middle English Times, diss., 1916, 11). He attributes this occurrence to a certain sound change (in which the voiced g was affected, causing OE Aegel's burg, dag, and gear to change to Aylesbury, day, and year). This occurrence might be better taken as a sign of the assertion of Anglo-Saxon identity in reaction to the cruel and oppressive rule of the Normans. Many families may have named their children after Aegel or its variants to express tribal pride when their Norman conquerors mercilessly forced them en masse into fiefdom. Gemination and degemination (especially the latter being of Aramaic import) have long obscured the origins of many Germanic words. However, when understood, these provide a helpful linguistic lens with which historical sound changes reveal the Semitic origins of various Germanic words. They offer a feasible phonologically conditioning environment which explains how Angle may be related to Aegel, meaning 'bull-calf' in Hebrew, from an etymological angle (pardon the pun). For Anglo-Saxons, Aegel and Angle were tremendously significant as their mark of tribal identity, harkening back to a bygone era when their ancestors believed that gold calves (`egle hazihab ) were the gods who brought them out of Egypt (1 Kings 12:28).